FLASH SPECIAL: Hurry Back - A Lauren Bacall Memorial
Today we celebrate the life and career of legendary Broadway and Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall in honor of her death this week at the age of 89.
The voice. The face. The look. Lauren Bacall was glamour personified - even down to the way she smoked her cigarettes. Indeed, as perhaps her most famous film line erotically intones, in TO HAVE & HAVE NOT - her very first film, at the age of 19, no less - she relays that to whistle effectively, "You just put your lips together and... blow." Now, as the smoke clears on the news of her death this week, we are reminded of what a brilliant, alluring and unforgettable beginning that scene was to the career of a performer who would contribute one of the most unique and impressive artistic outputs of anybody in the 20th century, both onstage and onscreen.
While still studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Lauren Bacall (nee Betty Joan Perske) supplanting her meager income with modeling jobs and theatre ushering, thereby indoctrinating herself into the exciting world of Broadway and the entertainment realm at large all the while - soaking it up and working her way up to the top from the bottom. Stories of diva antics and backstage bitchery may have followed her later in life, but by that point she had clearly earned her place - and we have many of those performances given on the way up to enjoy at our leisure to prove it. After all, there are few one-name dynasties in Hollywood history - let alone on Broadway - and undoubtedly Bacall was one of them.
Prior to TO HAVE & HAVE NOT, Bacall made her first appearances on Broadway - acting in two plays in 1942, JOHNNY 2 X 4, FRANKLIN STREET, as history would have it. Of course, she returned to the theatre frequently throughout her career, such as in the 1959 production of GOODBYE CHARLIE and the 1965 mounting of CACTUS FLOWER. After that, Bacall then tried her hand at a musical for the first time - one written especially for her and tailor-made to her copious talents, that is. The musical? APPLAUSE. The source material? No less than ALL ABOUT EVE. After all, who would dare trod on the hallowed ground of Bette Davis in such a galvanizing role but another Betty? And trod she did - all the way to Tony Award glory, winning the 1970 award for Best Actress In A Musical for her efforts.
After APPLAUSE came yet another musical role, in a revival of WONDERFUL TOWN, but it would be a few more years after that before she made a major musical mark again - and, boy, did she! WOMAN OF THE YEAR was another star vehicle designed explicitly for her and she once again took home the top prize at the 1980 Tony Awards for her work in the Kander & Ebb musical.
One more musical role lay ahead for Bacall following her triumphs in APPLAUSE and WOMAN OF THE YEAR onstage - the theatrically-inclined film thriller THE FAN, all about an actress starring in a new Broadway musical. Marvin Hamlisch and Tim Rice crafted a musical score to emphasize her dramatic power and draw attention away from a less-than-perfect vocal instrument, with quite spectacular results. Nonetheless, it is APPLAUSE and WOMAN OF THE YEAR that Broadway babies may remember Bacall for most fondly - and with good reason.
Bacall returned to the stage in a revival of Tennessee Williams's SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH and THE VISIT before making her final stage appearance at the turn of the new century in WAITING IN THE WINGS. In addition to all of her theatre work, Bacall also participated in countless benefit concerts and special events, in addition to hosting the Tony Awards numerous times, too. Bacall was a true blue theatre animal as well as a powerful Hollywood player.
Plus, there was the romance that she shared with another major actor of the 20th century that further buoyed the iconography and impossible-to-top allure of Lauren Bacall - all thanks to Humphrey Bogart. In 1945 the pair were married and the 25-year age gap between the two posed no apparent problems - their love was long-lasting and cherished by both until his death in 1957. One of the most memorable and famous of Hollywood hook-ups, Bogey & Bacall is a term still immediately recognizable to this very day - along with the epic romance that went along with it.
As far as her film work is concerned, many fondly remember Bacall for her work in any number of notable cinematic properties, ranging from THE BIG SLEEP and DARK PASSAGE in the 1940s, to KEY LARGO, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE and two Vincente Minnelli films in the 1950s - THE COBWEB and DESIGNING WOMAN - as well as Douglas Sirk's classic WRITTEN ON THE WIND. The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s provided her standout roles in HARPER, Sidney Lumet's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Robert Altman's H.E.A.L.T.H. and the aforementioned THE FAN, at a glance. The 1990s proved a relatively fruitful period for Bacall on film, with Rob Reiner's MISERY a runaway hit and Barbra Streisand's THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES earning her an Academy Award nomination. Bacall continued to explore risky roles in tricky projects in the new millennium, teaming with auteur Lars Von Trier for DOGVILLE and MANDERLAY, as well as crafting an adorable and effective performance in Paul Schrader's THE WALKER, opposite Woody Harrelson.
Broadway, Hollywood, radio, publishing, even advertisements - Lauren Bacall did it all in her life and career. All that we are left with to wish now in her passing is summed up in a song from APPLAUSE - "Hurry Back".
Hearts & Diamonds
Let's take a look at some of the highlights from the life and career of the one and only Lauren Bacall.
First, opening the 1971 Tony Awards telecast as only she could.
After that, view the entire telecast of APPLAUSE.
Next, go back to 1944's TO HAVE & HAVE NOT. Screen history.
Bogey and Bacall team up again for THE BIG SLEEP.
DARK PASSAGE was yet another Bogey/Bacall movie match-up.
KEY LARGO was their fourth and final onscreen collaboration.
Bacall and Marilyn Monroe star in HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE.
WRITTEN ON THE WIND is an undisputed Sirk masterpiece.
DESIGNING WOMAN was one of Bacall's noted Minnelli collaborations.
HARPER was a hit for Bacall and leading man Paul Newman.
Also, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS gave Bacall yet another scene-stealer role.
THE FAN provided Bacall with the chance to merge her stage and screen gifts.
Without a doubt, APPLAUSE was a career highlight for Bacall.
Lauren Bacall leads the cast of WOMAN OF THE YEAR on the 1980 Tony Awards.
Bacall receives a 1997 Golden Globe for THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES.
Gregory Peck presents Bacall with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
DOGVILLE was a late-career triumph for Bacall.
Showing her comedy chops were still sharp as shark's teeth, she shined in THE WALKER in 2007.
Bacall sheds some light on her career in this extensive interview with Charlie Rose.
Lastly, Bacall performs a specially-penned tribute to Leonard Bernstein written by Stephen Sondheim.
As a special bonus, view this showstopper from THE FAN - "Hearts, Not Diamonds".
So, what is your absolute favorite Lauren Bacall performance of all? Furthermore, did you prefer her onstage or onscreen? Whatever your preference, Lauren Bacall was an icon for which there are few, if any equals. To cite a phrase from THE FAN, in each of her performances Bacall gave us hearts and diamonds.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro